Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Sinking Mexican city

Here's an environmental issue that illustrates the capacity of the state. Will Mexico lose its capital and its government?

Climate change is threatening to push a crowded capital toward a breaking point.
Mexico City, a mile and a half above sea level, [is] sinking, collapsing in on itself…

Always short of water, Mexico City keeps drilling deeper for more, weakening the ancient clay lake beds on which the Aztecs first built much of the city, causing it to crumble even further…

It is a cycle made worse by climate change. More heat and drought mean more evaporation and yet more demand for water, adding pressure to tap distant reservoirs at staggering costs or further drain underground aquifers and hasten the city’s collapse…
Props for tilted buildings
The effects of climate change are varied and opportunistic, but one thing is consistent: They are like sparks in the tinder. They expose cities’ biggest vulnerabilities, inflaming troubles that politicians and city planners often ignore or try to paper over. And they spread outward, defying borders…

For many cities around the world, adapting to climate change is a route to long-term prosperity. That’s the good news, where societies are willing to listen. But adaptation can also be costly and slow. It can run counter to the rhythms of political campaigns and headlong into powerful, entrenched interests, confounding business as usual…

Unlike traffic jams or crime, climate change isn’t something most people easily feel or see. It is certainly not what residents in Mexico City talk about every day. But it is like an approaching storm, straining an already precarious social fabric and threatening to push a great city toward a breaking point…

Overseeing the city’s water supply is a thin, patient man with the war-weary air of an old general: Ramón Aguirre Díaz, director of the Water System of Mexico City, is unusually frank about the perils ahead…

If it stops raining in the reservoirs where the city gets its water, “we’re facing a potential disaster,” he said. “There is no way we can provide enough trucks of water to deal with that scenario.”

“If we have the problems that California and São Paulo have had,” he added, “there is the serious possibility of unrest.”…

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